I didn’t really want to write about GamerGate, and in fact I’m still not going to; you’ll have to forgive me for being a little clickbait-y. In fact, I have preserved a virtually complete ignorance of the details, and am proud of that. So far as I care, it is a personal spat, no more significant than any other fight that has occurred between former lovers. I already know the feminists and their bastions in the mainstream media will circle wagons around Zoe Quinn, taking advantage of the apparent narrative of oppression to beat the bad guys up with it, while the gamers who pay attention to video game media will have complicated, nuanced views like you’d find on Reddit [that’s not a compliment, by the way] attempting to mount a defense of their freedom to associate with people even if that doesn’t happen to select for gender equality in a medium’s intended audience. It has gained its prominence not because what occurred was so vastly shocking [if shocking were the only factor in memetic spread, the internet would be full of nothing but gore and porn with the random Holocaust denial thrown in for variety], since even the most precursory perusal of a city newspaper will reveal transgressions that amount to more than emotional attack, i.e. actual physical harm and destruction. No, it has memetic success because it is perfectly designed for propagation through instilled narratives of oppression, a kind of memetic Greek fire, if you will, for serving as an exosemantic gang sign. It provides the same function as the wearing of handkerchiefs in signaling association with a gang.
The internet, and by extension the communication achieved by humans through it, is of an informational kind. We are dependent on the survival of the groups we align with for the propagation of our genes, ultimately. Humans detect group association because group association is personal identity. This is especially the case on the internet as the entire content of an individual’s persona as transmitted through mostly textual format is essentially the opinions and ideas that person has expressed. On the internet, you are your opinion [and opinions are, ultimately, attempts at group association]. This, combined with the human instinct to figure out which side you think is best and thus to best identify with and promote the survival of your particular opinion group means opinions are akin to fashion. [And no, you are not above trying to be fashionable.]
This is the basis of memes, which propagate via the utility afforded to individuals by their use. That utility can be mere entertainment, intellectual edification, the promotion of effective life strategies, and the ability to identify which group of people you want to associate with, who you expect to treat you the best. Some opinions are more exosemantically loaded than others; for instance, one’s opinion on ice cream flavors signals relatively nothing about group identification, but one’s opinion on Zoe Quinn allow a person to simultaneously 1) identify with a group, 2) attempt to make a personal contribution, and 3) receive praise from others for the soundness and educated-ness of his opinion. As a meme, GamerGate is basically an ideological litmus test; are you a bad enough dude to declare yourself a feminist/anti-feminist? [Nor am I going to act like I’m superior for being “above it all”; reflexively, I assume that 4chan [RIP], manospherians, and gamers who don’t care to signal moral superiority have the best grasp on the details and how facts have been selected, omitted, exaggerated, and emphasized so as to fit a particular, and well-known, narrative about an oppressed damsel in distress who was just trying to be a strong, independent, grrrl. I might as well point out that you already had your mind made up about whether you agree with me or not before you even read this; you’re only reading at this point in order to either continue uncovering my awfulness as a human being and confirming your own moral superiority or to find reassurance that you can be a gamer without having to make gaming about feminism. Among other things, pointing out a woman’s infidelity in previous committed relationships is a public service to men who might otherwise be duped into giving commitment when they might not if that history were known. As to other tactics, harassment, humiliation, again I am ignorant of the particulars, and have no care to know.]
Zoe Quinn, and her boyfriends or cock carousel comrades, all of this is boring. Sans GamerGate, Zoe Quinn would have remained forever a nobody, a woman who tried to leverage her sexuality for material gain and got caught. The news has ceased to be about Quinn, but is really about itself; it is about the implicit need for not yet politicized arenas of social gathering to be pressured to conform to ideological expectations. The detection of insufficiently leftist memes propagating in social groups is the news here, and while the insufficient leftism of gamers [who are predominantly male, which entails the automatic suspicion of sexism] has been well-known and discussed since the introduction of graphical power sufficient to realistically approximate female breasts. It simply happens to be the case that there hasn’t been a sufficiently awful casus belli to use as an excuse to excoriate, shame, and I’ll just go out on a limb and assume eventually attempt to fire game developers, journalists, well-known gamers [which could have already occurred for all I know about this particular case] as punishment for insufficient leftism of the video game scene. GamerGate isn’t about Quinn in the least; she is merely a convenient springboard for diatribes on the awfulness of patriarchal oppression and the shaming of those who don’t conform their own opinion with sufficient feminist orthodoxy.
It was the same with Ferguson. White cop shoots unarmed black youth, the narrative of racist oppression is obvious enough that it spontaneously coalesced opinions and media was on the story like sharks detecting blood. Trayvon Martin is another character perfectly formed for ringing the bells and declaring a panic about racial relations. Rodney King was, with respect to the 24 hour news cycle that hadn’t yet developed and an incipient internet that was only beginning to filter down to the masses hadn’t yet formed stable opinion groups the average individual could identify with. The Lewinsky scandal is another primitive form of ideological litmus test; just look at the Republican/Democrat split of opinion.
There’s another case from a few years ago which is an illustration of the exact same tactics to attack a group that wasn’t expressing sufficient leftism. Anyone remember ElevatorGate? Long story short, woman experiences oppression by man [once again, I largely avoided knowing the details of this case, but I still ended up learning a few things through osmosis], which sparks the question of whether the New Atheist community associated with Watson is sufficiently leftist; the answer, as you should know by now, is that no, not in the least. [The question only gets asked by leftism if it gets to prescribe its favorite solution: apply more leftism!] One’s opinion on ElevatorGate was a shibboleth to prove one’s requisite leftism in certain communities.
These outbreaks of panic about groups which fail to express sufficient devotion and tribute to leftism are largely epiphenomenal, the result of more fundamental sociobiological, cultural forces. Civilization never truly quelled the war of all against all which is the animal kingdom, it only negotiated a more pro-social, less violent form of conflict resolution, e.g. law, morality, social norms, innate bias to desire social belonging. These campaigns to uncover and root out individuals who express opinions which deviate from most others’ is a time-honored tradition in humans, with varying forms of disconnection from society entailed as a consequence; in some cases it is losing and/or not being permitted to gain a high status career, ostracism and exclusion from the community and family, or even death. [If you think this is intrinsically wrong, then you should oppose leftist calls for people who say the wrong things about gays or women to be fired from their jobs.]
What’s the point of this? There is a distributed conspiracy enforced by a media backed by academia [consider that you generally need a Ph.D. to be considered A Person Whose Opinion Matters in the context of social scientific claims; compare to the clergy of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages] which stringently polices itself, and others, to only say things which are compatible with the reigning orthodoxy of the elites, i.e. Progress. Call this distributed conspiracy what you will, but it is a corroborated thesis that leftism, understood as a memeplex, propagates itself by the mechanism of concerted attack on groups and individuals that demonstrate insufficient leftism [see above, and consider your own reluctance to air your honestly believed but insufficiently leftist opinions for fear of attack]; it seeks out witches to shame [consider that finely honed sense you have for opinions which are borderline racist], attacks until submission is obtained, and makes sure those who aren’t persuaded stay shut up, ensuring the appearance of uniform agreement. This Zoe Quinn case is just an example of the leftist memeplex at work, and that is why boring details about a failed relationship has become Important News You Need To Know About. This isn’t even news anymore, but the simulacrum thereof; the news is constituted completely by the news, and this was but a memetic Kardashian in that context of meta-news media. These media scandals are just a way of proving you know how to say shibboleth, and simultaneously serves as a distraction from issues that might bring demotist pressure on leftists.
However, it seems the Cathedral overreached in this particular case, and the narrative of journalistic nonpartisanship is fracturing; journalists are being revealed for the zealots they are, people who place agenda above facts. The discussions which take place out of sight are the more important for revealing actual intention, and quite revealing they are when brought to light. That said, it should be kept in mind that any complicated network of relationships which successfully forms a feedback loop for propelling some particular ideological agenda through, say, media, are spontaneous orders. They develop not on the basis of some initial conspiracy, but simple interpersonal relationships, individual agendas, personal interests, which happen to develop into resilient social orders capable of achieving collective interests. In other words, insofar as any collective interest depends on the alignment of that collective interest with personal interests, those collective interests will tend to form. This is what a distributed conspiracy looks like, and it is indubitable that many other such collective agendas are rampant in media, with similar networks of connections to other industries about which much ink is spilled.